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EyeQ Optometrists Launch Associate Network PDF
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Australian News
Friday, 22 May 2015

EyeQ Optometrists Ltd (EQO) have recently announced the launch of an Associate Network supporting independent full-scope optometry practices to compete in Australia’s congested optical retail environment. EQO is an Australian-owned, optometrist- led company with currently a total of 19 practices across all mainland states. Of the 19 practices, 16 are corporate-owned practices, with two Optometry Australia State Presidents among the first 3 Associate sites.

A founding director and current Executive Chairman of EQO, Sydney optometrist for 36 years, Ray Fortescue stated, “EyeQ has worked on developing this Network concept over a number of years. We needed to create systems and strategies which allowed our practices to be both profitable as well as professionally satisfying for the optometrist and practice staff while providing expert care to our patients. We also noted that many Generation X, Y and Next optometrists were not sufficiently confident utilising the existing business support options available, to commence a new practice or even to take over an existing independent practice on their own.”

The first Associate in the EyeQ network was Darrell Baker, the current Optometry Australia President in Western Australia, who has located in Karrinyup, Perth, commencing to trade in his own right on September 1st 2014. In Darrell’s words, “After many years in a large independent group- practice the time had come to branch out in my own practice. Obviously I was very comfortable with my clinical ability and experience but as so often happens in a multi-site group there were areas of practice management which had not been my responsibility and as such, I was looking for that support in any new venture I might consider. I felt that I needed more than a buying group could offer.”

He added, “After assessing all the available options, EyeQ Optometrists’ seemed to be the perfect fit. With a common vision and philosophy of ensuring the long term viability of the ideals of independent optometry, previous interaction with the executive team of EQO also gave me confidence and trust in those whom I would be dealing with. The first 7 months of the EyeQ experience have reinforced those initial views.“

“The business strategies now available through EQO deliver all that I could ask for. Most of the business back-end tasks are taken care of including marketing, payroll and accounts payable. There is constant innovation and an ability to move quickly when required. The recent launch of the revamped website which includes an e-tail CL site is a good example of where this company is heading. I see a great future for myself, EyeQ and independent optometry as more Associates join the Network,” he concluded.

The extent of the support systems available to an EyeQ Associate is quite broad. The key components which are on offer include comprehensive merchandising, marketing, training and back office functions.In early-December 2014 the second EyeQ Associate opened their doors. Bayd Rosenbaum opened a brand new practice in the idyllic seaside town of Merimbula in NSW and is very happy with the early signs he is experiencing.

“It is a big step to “Greenfield” an independent Optometry practice in today’s competitive market. With the advice and direction of EyeQ we have got off to a very encouraging start. The design phase and practice fit out has been relatively trouble-free. Our initial training, support on opening day and ongoing assistance has been wonderful”, commented Bayd.

“One of the founding partners in EyeQ Optometrists, Tony Ireland from EyeQ Ulladulla, was instrumental in steering me to the Network opportunities they had been developing. To say we are happy would be an understatement. So much of the “back end” practice management and support burden is taken care of by the National office team, freeing myself and my wife to spend quality time with our young family which is critical in our work/life balance. We look forward to a long and rewarding relationship with EyeQ,” he added. In Tony Ireland’s words “starting a new small business we expected to spend time on accounts and admin, but were very pleasantly surprised the EyeQ Optometrists National office does all this for us. It means we get the benefits of running a small business without the downside of out-of-hours bookwork.”

The EyeQ board and management team consist primarily of experienced optometrists, including Peter Rose from the NSW south coast who is well known to many in the industry with 36 years of practice behind him. The Chief Operating Officer is Ms Lily Wegrzynowski, also a very well known face across the country, an optometrist and former OA State president in WA. Ray added, “The extensive optometric experience in our executive team allows EyeQ to better relate to the needs of the independent practitioner. We understand the challenges of practice management. We respect the ideals of delivering a committed holistic approach to the eye care needs of all. Our offer appears to be “hitting the spot” following numerous enquiries already, with minimal announcements to the market as yet.”

Further endorsement of the strength of the EyeQ opportunity is the latest addition to the Associate network. Yet another OA state president, David Foresto who has held the position as President of OA Queensland/NT since 2012 has joined EyeQ at Spring Hill, a Brisbane CBD practice in April 2015.

The appeal for David was "being in a health care precinct like Wickham Terrace and having a strong focus on specialised contact lenses I wanted a practice where I can maintain absolute clinical independence whilst having the back-end monotony of book keeping and payroll taken care of for me. I'm looking forward to an exciting future for Foresto EyeQ Optometrists as well as the optometric profession which I love and will continue to serve" stated David Foresto.

A low key launch, with some high profile early adopters has announced the EyeQ Optometrists Network as a genuine player in this dynamic marketplace. Independent full scope optometry now has a viable Australian-owned, optometrist-led alternative to the current offerings with a goal to create a legacy to help fulfil the needs of future generations of optometrists.

OA: "Australian Government Remains Blinded to Eye Needs" PDF
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Australian News
Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Kate Gifford, the Chair of Optometry Australia (OA), the national professional body for optometrists, expressed her disappointment with the Australian Government's decision to ignore calls to reverse cuts to the optometric Medicare rebate.

"A five per cent cut to Medicare rebates for optometric consultations has been in place since 1 January 2015. Combined with the freeze on Medicare indexation to July 2018, the cut is threatening the sustainability of optometric services, particularly those located in areas of socio-economic disadvantage.

“Despite our ongoing calls for smarter investment in optometry under Medicare, the Budget has failed to provide the necessary relief for optometrists and their most vulnerable patients.”

“The recent cuts to optometry under Medicare are impacting thousands of Australians most at disadvantage such as pensioners, health card holders, those on low incomes, children and people living in residential agedcare facilities. We are greatly concerned that the Government’s reduced investment in Medicare is deterring many of these patients from seeing an optometrist when they need to.

There was a win for optometrists and patients in rural and remote areas with the Government extending eligibility for the use of telehealth services under Medicare to optometrists, to support the use of video consultations with ophthalmologists.

“We know that people living in regional and rural areas have higher unmet need for eye care than those living in metropolitan regions and so extending telehealth services under Medicare to optometrists is a logical step to support better access and co-ordination of eye care services. Despite this welcome addition under Medicare, the Budget has failed to deliver the necessary significant investment required to ensure optometric care is accessible and sustainable for all Australians into the future.

“When you consider that 80 per cent of all vision impairment is preventable or treatable, we continue to question why the Australian Government has ignored our calls to help us to reduce this damning statistic,” Mrs Gifford said.

Optometry Australia has been calling on the Government to reverse the five per cent cut to the optometric rebate, at minimum for socio-disadvantaged Australians. “The Government appears blind to the needs of these Australians. Instead of discouraging, it should be encouraging Australians to see an optometrist regularly in order to help reduce the $1.36 billion that vision loss costs the Australian economy annually,” Mrs Gifford said.

RANZCO Welcomes Mobile Devices for Eye Care But Also Cautions PDF
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Australian News
Tuesday, 12 May 2015

mobile eye examUsing portable devices to carry out eye checks raises interesting questions around health diagnosis and service provision according to The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO). 

RANZCO states in its recent media release: "The use of smartphone apps and adaptors to perform common eye exam functions such as retinal imaging is both a welcomed innovation and a reminder for caution. Their high-resolution photographic capabilities may be of great use in developing countries or remote areas where transporting, or finding, traditional ophthalmic equipment could be a challenge. Images taken by these devices are then sent to experts – ophthalmologists – for diagnosis. These devices are as simple as a clip-on camera adaptor that give high quality images of the back of the eye and the retina, combining a traditional ophthalmoscope and a retinal camera in a mobile phone."

President of RANZCO, Dr Bradley Horsburgh, explains the implications. "The eye care industry are innovators and fast adopters of technology to improve the quality of eye diagnosis and treatment. We want our job to be more efficient, and these devices challenge our traditional thinking. Many of RANZCO's ophthalmologists have worked in rural or remote areas, especially overseas. We don't endorse one specific product over another, but help facilitate eye health awareness through local and affiliated partner organisations. Such devices could bridge the gap between health workers and enable stronger communication and collaboration – all for the patient's benefit".

RANZCO ophthalmologists have been heavily involved with the Lions Outback Vision Project in rural Western Australia, in which an app was developed that enables patient bookings and secure image transfer from a GP or eye health worker's smartphone to the ophthalmologist. The smartphone can be used to take screen shots, photos of printouts of a patient's visual field or a printout of an OCT scan.

OA Concerned About Unmet Need for Optometric Eye Care in Rural Australia PDF
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Australian News
Wednesday, 06 May 2015

Thousands of Australians living in regional areas are facing an increased risk of long‐term eye and vision issues due to limited access to optometric services, according to an innovative national research project unveiled recently.

The launch of the National Eye Health Heat Map (NEHHM), an interactive online eye health mapping tool developed by Optometry Australia (OA) and hosted by the Australian National University (ANU), reveals Australians living in regional areas have significantly higher levels of unmet need for optometric eye care compared with those living in metropolitan areas. According to Optometry Australia President Kate Gifford, this disparity between regional and metro areas for optometric eye care will likely become greater with the recent 5% cut to the optometric Medicare rebate and extended freeze on indexation of Medicare rebates until July 2018.

"Although we intuitively had believed this disparity between regional and metro areas to be the case, our heat map provides the first empirical profile of the ‘hot spots’ that exist for optometric eye care across Australia. While there are some pockets of high unmet need within metropolitan areas, our greatest concern is for Australians living in inner and outer regional areas who experience difficulty in accessing essential optometric services as a result of geographical and socio‐economic factors," Mrs Gifford said.

With the federal budget due to be handed down next week, Optometry Australia has called on the Australian Government to reverse the 5% cut to the optometric Medicare rebate to protect equitable access to optometric eye care for all Australians.

NEHHM was developed specifically by Australia's peak optometry body to provide a visual representation of the estimated unmet need for optometric eye care across Australia. The tool displays composite data sets from Australian Bureau of Statistics, the former Health Workforce Australia, Department of Human Services and Medicare Australia to give an "eye care need" score based on relevant factors such as estimated prevalence of different eye conditions and associated risk factors, provision of optometric services and important demographic factors which combined, provide an insight into the eye care needs of Australians.

According to the NEEHM, South Australia’s Mallee and Murray regions, New South Wales’ Lachlan Valley and Western Australia’s Mandurah region have some of the highest estimated levels of unmet need for optometric eye care across Australia. Conversely, affluent metropolitan areas such as Melbourne’s Port Phillip and Stonnington precincts lead the way with the lowest estimated need for optometric eye care.

Paul Konings, Spatial Scientist with the National Centre for Geographic and Resource Analysis in Primary Health Care (GRAPHC) at ANU, said the heat map tool provides a sophisticated insight into Australia’s healthcare landscape including disparities in service provision.

Extended Depth of Focus CLs for Presbyopia Receive FDA Clearance PDF
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Australian News
Monday, 04 May 2015

EDOF CLsThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted clearance for Brien Holden Vision (BHV)'s Extended Depth of Focus (EDOF) contact lenses, a world first for the correction of presbyopia.

Professor Brien Holden, BHV Board member and CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI), at the University of New South Wales, whose scientist, Dr. Ravi Bakaraju, invented the technology of Extended Depth of Focus (EDOF) contact lenses, has hailed this as ‘the birth of a new technology’.

BHV's new generation of EDOF contact lenses uses higher order aberrations to optimise retinal image quality over a wide range of distances from far to near while minimising ghosting and haloes. Invented by one the Institute’s top scientists, Dr Ravi Bakaraju, the EDOF contact lenses perform relatively independent of a patient’s natural aberrations and variation in pupil size and are designed to meet the vision needs of emerging presbyopes, middle aged and older people.

"Many claims are made that multifocal lenses provide simultaneous vision at various visual distances but often this comes at the cost of reduced contrast, increased ghosting and compromised overall vision satisfaction," said Dr Bakaraju. "These shortcomings are often exacerbated with low illumination levels. Such visual compromises have been associated with an increase in patient dropout rate and lack of confidence in fitting by practitioners. Our comprehensive data tells us that our contact lenses will greatly benefit the U.S. market as well as others."

In 2013, the Institute announced the spin-off of Brien Holden Vision, a commercial subsidiary that provides a pathway for advanced and beneficial products and services for those in need of vision correction. "We have a rich history of innovation", said Professor Holden. "Products we have co-developed include silicone hydrogel lenses, the most popular soft contact lenses used in the world today, the leading soft toric lenses for astigmatism and the leading multifocal contact lens in the U.S. These products have generated over $30 billion in sales for the industry over the last 15 years, and earned Australia and the partners in the Vision CRC $300 million in royalties while bringing in $1.5 billion in cash and in-kind research funds." "This will be the first Brien Holden Vision product brought to the market by our own spin-off company – exciting times."

New Report Highlights Economic Impact of Diabetic Eye Disease PDF
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Australian News
Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The productivity of Australia’s workforce is being hit hard and may be even more so in the future by the impact of diabetic macular oedema (DME), according to a new report supported by Macular Disease Foundation Australia and Diabetes Australia. The Deloitte Access Economics report investigates the projected increase and economic impact of DME (including indirect costs only), a disabling eye disease which may occur in anyone living with diabetes.

Lynne Pezzullo, report author and Lead Partner, Health Economics and Social Policy at Deloitte Access Economics, said the entire indirect financial and wellbeing costs associated with DME are set to amount to approximately $2.07 billion in 2015 – with a large part due to productivity losses (approximately $570 million). "DME is one of the leading causes of blindness for working-age Australians and can prevent people from working at full capacity or, in the worst case, from working at all. In fact, 91 per cent of the estimated $624.30 million indirect costs of DME in 2015 is projected to be caused by lower workforce participation, absenteeism and an estimated 218 premature and preventable deaths associated with the condition because of poor vision.

"With an anticipated 42 per cent rise in DME prevalence by 2030, if effective prevention and treatment were not in place, and with ongoing demographic ageing, we can expect the effects of this condition on productivity losses to be felt even more strongly in the future," Ms Pezzullo added.

The report identified that by 2030 the number of Australians living with diabetes is estimated to rise to 2.45 million. Julie Heraghty, CEO of Macular Disease Foundation Australia, said the increasing numbers are of major concern, as every person with diabetes is at risk of vision impairment. "Many Australians with diabetes don't recognise they are at risk of blindness or the importance of maintaining regular eye tests when their risk actually increases over time – even if they are managing their diabetes well. Of concern is that only half undergo the recommended two-yearly eye examination, (or more frequently for some people) even though early detection and timely treatment can prevent vision loss."

Prof Greg Johnson, CEO of Diabetes Australia, explained that much of this problem is preventable. “A large part of this adverse impact on people with diabetes, the community, productivity and wellbeing is preventable by a more coordinated, national approach to eye checks for people with diabetes. This report shows that if we could increase the number of people with diabetes having eye checks by 50 per cent, then approximately 4,500 additional people with DME could be identified and potentially receive earlier treatment to prevent disease progression and prevent serious vision loss,” said Prof Johnson.

The report outlines that early detection and treatment can also potentially reduce the economic burden of DME. It was estimated that administering anti-VEGF treatments, a recently approved treatment option, to two thirds of people diagnosed with vision impairment due to
DME who are eligible to receive treatment, could save $353.13 million in non-healthcare costs associated with loss of vision and wellbeing in 2015.

Laser and vitrectomy treatments are also available but, due to the inconsistencies in the available literature on their cost effectiveness in diabetic retinopathy (DR) and DME, their impact on economic cost of DME was not examined in the report. Ms Heraghty explained the report is particularly timely, given the recent opening of the public consultation on the Australian National Diabetes Strategy, which aims to identify approaches to reduce the impact of diabetes in the community.

"The emotional and social burden of DME carries with it enormous cost to government and the taxpayer. In line with the Government's consideration of a new National Diabetes Strategy we need to take action on preventable blindness and vision loss now to minimise the future impact not just to the economy but also to people living with DME and their families. A coordinated national partnership approach between Government, patient organisations, clinicians, industry and the community is needed to support early diagnosis of DME and improve the entire continuum of care – from awareness and screening to treatment access and rehabilitation. We call on all parties concerned to join forces and reduce the impact of DME on Australians living with diabetes, the community and the country," Ms Heraghty said.

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